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Quirin v. Wingfoot Commercial Tire Systems

April 21, 2006

DALE QUIRIN AND PATTY QUIRIN, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
WINGFOOT COMMERCIAL TIRE SYSTEMS, LLC, AND GOODYEAR TIRE & RUBBER COMPANY, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael P. McCUSKEY Chief U.S. District Judge

OPINION

This case is before the court for ruling on various pre-trial motions filed by the parties. Following this court's careful and thorough review of the arguments of the parties and the documents filed by the parties, this court rules as follows: (1) Plaintiffs' Motion in Limine (#52) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part; (2) Defendants' Motion in Limine (#55) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part; and (3) Defendants' Motion to Sever (#56) is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

This case stems from a tragic accident in which a large tire exploded, injuring Plaintiff Dale Quirin and killing another individual. The case was transferred to this court from the Southern District of Illinois on September 3, 2004. Plaintiffs' Complaint was originally filed in the circuit court of the County of St. Clair, Illinois, and was removed to the Southern District of Illinois by Defendants. In their Complaint (#2), Plaintiffs alleged that Plaintiff Dale Quirin was injured when a tire and wheel separated explosively and struck him. Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants were negligent and therefore liable for Plaintiff Dale Quirin's injuries and for the loss of consortium of Plaintiff Patty Quirin. Defendants have admitted liability for causing the incident.

On December 21, 2005, Pacific Rail Services, LLC (Pacific Rail), filed a Motion to Intervene (#49). Pacific Rail stated that it was Plaintiff Dale Quirin's employer. Pacific Rail stated that it has paid Worker's Compensation benefits to Dale Quirin in the amount of $193,412.41 and that his claim for permanent partial disability is still pending. Pacific Rail stated that it was entitled to intervene in this action to protect its lien. The Motion to Intervene was granted on January 19, 2006. On April 7, 2006, Pacific Rail filed its Claim in Intervention to Enforce its Worker's Compensation Lien (#57).

This case is scheduled for a final pretrial conference on April 21, 2006, at 11:00 a.m. and for a jury trial on May 1, 2006, at 9:00 a.m.

I. PLAINTIFFS' MOTION IN LIMINE

On March 29, 2006, Plaintiffs filed their Motion in Limine and Brief in Support (#52). Defendants filed their Response and Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion in Limine (#62) on April 17, 2006. Plaintiffs first requested an Order from this court barring Defendants from introducing or mentioning evidence of studies which tend to show that people fake injuries for money or that they tend to recover significantly after the payment of damages. Plaintiffs stated that they believe that Defendant will attempt to introduce through their hired expert, Dr. Mirkin, that there are studies which show that people fake injuries or recover significantly after payment of damages. Plaintiffs argued that any such evidence would not be admissible under the standards set out in Daubert v. Merrill Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993). In their Response, Defendants noted that Plaintiffs have not cited to any specific studies which they contend are inadmissible. Defendants therefore contended that Plaintiffs have presented this court with an inadequate basis for making a decision and argued that this court should reserve ruling until specific testimony which Plaintiffs find objectionable is brought up at trial. This court concludes that evidence regarding the type of studies referred to by Plaintiffs would not be relevant or admissible at trial. Accordingly, this portion of Plaintiffs' Motion in Limine is GRANTED.

Plaintiffs' second request is for an order barring any introduction of medical bills which have been reduced from the full amounts as a result of some special or contractual agreement between the health care providers and the health care payors. Plaintiffs contend that this evidence should not be allowed based upon the collateral source rule. In their Response, Defendants stated that they do not contest this request. Accordingly, this portion of Plaintiff's Motion in Limine is GRANTED.

For their third request, Plaintiffs sought an order barring any inference or mention that Defendants are not liable for damages related to injuries that may have been caused or contributed to during Plaintiff Dale A. Quirin's activities in "work hardening" or other health care related to the injuries at question in this lawsuit. In their Response, Defendants argued that Plaintiffs have oversimplified a complex and key issue in this case, an issue which is inappropriate for a ruling in limine. According to Defendants, there is a factual issue regarding whether Mr. Quirin's back complaints were caused by an alleged work hardening incident or were related solely to a pre-existing back condition. Defendants contended that Plaintiffs have cited no supporting authority for the proposition that a defendant who is liable for an accident which causes a wrist injury to the plaintiff is also liable if the plaintiff subsequently aggravates a pre-existing back injury allegedly due to work hardening. Defendants argued that, for Defendants to be liable for such subsequent injuries, the subsequent injury must (1) result from a bodily condition created by the first injury and (2) be the normal consequence of such injury. Defendants contend that it is difficult to fathom that developing back complaints relating to a prior back injury is the normal consequence of a wrist injury. Defendants argued that whether or not certain damages were caused by the alleged work hardening incident will be a key issue at trial. Defendants further argued that they should be allowed to explore the circumstances of the development of Mr. Quirin's back complaints because this evidence bears directly on the extent of Mr. Quirin's future wage loss claims and could demonstrate that Mr. Quirin's future wage loss damages are significantly less than the amount claimed by Plaintiffs.

This court agrees with Defendants that the case cited by Plaintiffs does not support the relief sought. This court further concludes that Defendants have made a persuasive argument that evidence regarding the cause of Plaintiffs' back injury will be relevant to several issues during trial.

Plaintiffs have not shown that Defendants should be precluded from presenting this type of evidence. Consequently, this portion of Plaintiffs' Motion in Limine is DENIED.

Plaintiffs' fourth request is for an order barring any evidence or mention of the need for tort reform. In their Response, Defendants stated that they do not contest this request. Therefore, this portion of Plaintiffs' Motion in Limine is GRANTED.

Plaintiffs' last request is for an order barring any statement or inference that Defendants would not be liable for damages related to a pre-existing condition or aggravation thereof. Plaintiffs argue that, under Illinois law, Defendants' liability for damages should not be eliminated or reduced on this basis. In their Response, Defendants argued that Plaintiffs have incorrectly stated Illinois law. Defendants contend that, obviously, they are not liable for damages solely caused by Plaintiff Dale Quirin's pre-existing 1997 back injury. Defendants argue that, under Illinois law, they are not liable for any damaged condition of Mr. Quirin's back which already existed at the time of the tire incident and, therefore, they must be allowed to introduce evidence related to the 1997 back injury. Defendants contend that evidence related to Mr. Quirin's pre-existing back injury is directly relevant to several key issues in this case, including the issue of Defendants' liability for any aggravation of the ...


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